These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


Printed in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round game v Poole Town Saturday 20thSeptember 2017   We won 2-1 in front of 680.

If you like watching non league football while checking out some stunning modernist architecture and swimming in a community owned lido, then Saltdean is the place for you.

With a population of 12,000 this suburb of Brighton has a lido regarded by English Heritage as one of the Seven Wonders of The English Seaside! “Along with its sister modernist building, the Ocean Hotel, the lido was designed to be the centrepiece of Saltdean’s seafront to promote it as a fashionable resort in the competitive 1930s British holiday industry. Just as the Victorians, 60 years previously, had considered a pier to be an essential element of a seaside resort, by the 1930s, lidos had become an important status symbol for successful resorts.”

Re-opened this summer thanks to a relentless campaign by the local community who fought off developers and raised millions to resurrect the Grade II listed building. It now has a 40 metre heated swimming pool, a paddling pool and a "splash area" with further plans to restore the main building. Meanwhile the Grand Ocean Hotel once a Butlins holiday camp is now luxury apartments.

At the back end of the estate surrounded by the South Downs you enter Saltdean United's Hill Park ground through a dirt track. It's pretty basic with just one stand cut into the hill, where the large grass banks are ripe for roly-polys and the pitch slopes to the side.

As someone once said the FA Vase is the only cup competition where everyone who enters wants to win and after years in the doldrums the Saltdean Tigers are roaring back to life. Flying high in the Southern Combination Premier Division after promotion from Division One last year, gone are the days of managers programme notes having a go at players for not turning up for training! During the 2015/16 season the club were in a pretty sorry state. Having been through 3 managers in as many months the club were lying bottom of the league and its future was in grave doubt. However despite finishing bottom there was a massive resurgence of interest, led by a celebrated ex-player with the support of local businessmen the club were transformed on and off the pitch. Within a single season they went from bottom to top of the league gaining promotion back to the top flight of Sussex football last season.

Their opponents Stansfeld play a level below in the Southern Counties East Football League Division One. Stansfeld isn't a place but is named after the Anglican priest and doctor John Stansfeld. Ater visiting Bermondsey and seeing the poverty he decided to form the Club in 1897 to keep the waifs and strays off the streets! The Club's headquarters are now to be found in Webb Street, Bermondsey, where over 200 members enjoy various sections, i.e. football, golf, snooker, athletics, circuit training and drinking. Currently the club fields two football teams on a Saturday, both in the Kent County League. They currently groundshare with Glebe, whatever a Glebe is.

I hate to have a pop at refs, but I could see why the blokes from Bermondsey were blowing a gasket. Two dubious penalties, two sendings off and was the first goal off-side? The crowd were treated to hat-trick from a lad on his debut after a year out of football and a cracking goal from Stansfeld. Another débutante ended up with a broken collar bone after just 30 seconds on the pitch.

It finished 3-1 to Saltdean - an action packed afternoon of football for just a fiver. They now host the Oystermen of Whitstable Town in the first round proper. Only eight more rounds left before the final at Wembley.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Printed in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying round game v Dulwich Hamlet Saturday 16th September 2017 We won 3-2 in front of 712 people.

I once asked, 'What’s not to like about Dulwich Hamlet?' But it seems these days plenty if you listen to some who've got their noses out of joint about the hundreds of hipsters who have descended on the club, twiddling their moustaches, singing songs and generally making a right old Rabble.

I love their name. Is there any other senior football team called Hamlet? And what about the kit. Does anyone else dare to play in pink and blue? As a Slough Town youngster I remember going to their massive crumbling old Champion Hill ground where crowds of 200 rattled round in a stadium built for thousands. Opened in 1931 it staged numerous Amateur Internationals and matches like the Amateur Cup Final between Kingstonian and Stockton in 1932-33 that attracted a record crowd of 20,744. Eventually, in 1991, it was totally demolished as part of Sainsbury‘s redevelopment and the club moved opposite to a new home.

The new ground lacks the charm of the old one and the last time Slough played them in the league, there was more Slough than Dulwich. Since then both clubs have seen a real spike in support, although Slough fans are more hip-replacement than hipster.

A few years back the future looked bleak for so many London clubs as wall to wall Premier League coverage hoovered up supporters while property vultures hoovered up grounds; but there's been a real renaissance with Wealdstone, Enfield, Clapton and Dulwich attracting supporters who enjoy the more personal experience you get from non league.

Duncan Hart chair of the Dulwich Supporters Trust explained how its not just about hipsters 'We've put a lot of work in to make this club a better place where everyone feels welcome...We have a ground that can hold three thousand so all the time you haven't got three thousand, you might as well give out free tickets. People will come and they'll spend money on food, on drink, on merchandise. Maybe a third will come again occasionally. Maybe ten per cent will come back regularly. And maybe five per cent will become season ticket-holders. There's proof in the pudding. We've gone from crowds of three hundred a few years so to averaging just over a thousand last season'' (so far this season it's 1,327). In 2016 they became the Football Foundations Community Club of the Year.

The last time I visited on New Years Day the massive crowd was so multicultural I was half-expecting the English Defence League to be outside complaining about all those bloody foreigners watching our football teams.

The club were also the team of my old mate Mad Pride Pete Shaughnessy who committed suicide 15 years ago. Pete was attacked with an iron bar when working as a bus conductor that left him with bouts of severe depression. But when Pete was feeling well he was a force to be reckoned with setting up Mad Pride. Like he said 'If people were proud to be black or gay, then why not be proud to be mad?' They held their first demo outside Bedlam, which was celebrating 750 years. Pete felt that the history of Bedlam didn't have much to celebrate and threw himself into campaigning. “Initially, I entered the non-league scene because I needed to pursue a hobby away from campaigning and find a way of chilling out. I was seeing a ‘shrink’ one day when she turned round and said to me, ‘You do realise before there were drugs, people used to be depressed for up to two years.’ “That’s funny”, I replied. “I’ve taken all the drugs that can be thrown at me with all the side effects and I’m still depressed over two years later, but then again, I do support Crystal Palace!!” ‘Change your team,’ cracked the shrink.

He bumped into old friend and life long Hamlet fan Mishi who persuaded Pete to follow the Hamlet. After one game he was hooked “Non-league football is ethical: you’re supporting a local community and you can have fun while you’re at it. When I’d just started going out with my present partner, I talked her into going to a totally, meaningless friendly, Moseley versus Dulwich. After a night with the “Rabble”, we ended up stranded in Hampton Court, no train or night bus. After a bit of bartering, I managed to get us the honeymoon suite at Hampton Court Palace. She was totally in awe. “This is what you get when you follow Dulwich Hamlet.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


To be printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Hitchin Town Tuesday 12th September 2017.

Football fans have long been treated like criminals, so it didn't shock me as much as it should that female Grimsby fans had to lift their tops to show their bras before they could go and watch their team away to Stevenage. One lucky steward was stationed in the bogs no doubt looking for stink bombs. Mind you, one Grimbsy fan was recently found guilty of assaulting a steward with an inflatable shark, so they were obviously up to something fishy.
I remember one steward searching my bag at Lewes, during their ill fated one season in the Conference. The fact that I was with an 18 month old toddler didn't seem to matter, unless they liked poking around in dirty nappies.

At the Slough-West Brom friendly, a steward wouldn't let one of our wheelchair supporters sit in a fenced off area despite their being no other respite from the torrential rain. He left at half time soaked to the skin. Too their credit Slough Council apologised and said they were working on sorting out the situation as a matter of urgency, but a bit of decency and common sense from the steward really wouldn't have gone a miss.

A last minute winner is always going to get football fans passions racing, but instead of savouring the moment Manchester City Rahim Sterling was sent off for over celebrating while one City fan was bundled to the ground by stewards. City's Sergio Agüero tried to intervene and was falsely accused of punching the steward. So is football a game full of excitement or is it just something to watch out the corner of your eye while taking selfies and playing with your phone?

Nick Glynn was a senior police football commander and adviser for nearly two decades – as a well as being a Birmingham City fan. He said “It is always interesting to watch the reaction of stewards and police officers when a goal is scored. I see fear, anger, aggression, sometimes panic. For many, it seems the overriding desire is to stop a perfectly normal and natural human reaction to a rare event, rather than taking a few steps back, a few deep breaths, remaining calm, and observing and giving half a minute for things to calm down. The reaction of stewards and police officers to goal celebrations is symptomatic of a wider problem with the rules and regulations that govern football fans, and the way that authorities treat them as a group. Many regulations apply only to football fans, and please, don’t try to claim we all deserve it. We don’t.”

I felt the full wrath of this petty bureaucrat mentality at Sloughs recent trip to Hereford. I'd been really looking forward to visiting the ground for the first time, leaving Brighton at stupid o' clock to meet up with fellow Rebels and a mate just back from Brazil. In the ground we had a laugh with their bar staff and mingled with their supporters. One of them told us he had been at THAT GAME. As a ten year old he was at the back of the terraces and said that as Ronnie Radford hit the ball the whole crowd know it was heading for the back of the Newcastle net. His feet didn't touch the ground as the crowd celebrated. Over 40 years later as Hereford were reborn as a supporters run club, he was back on those terraces repainting them for free ready for the new season; bonded to the club forever by those celebrations.

The 101 Slough supporters were in fine voice as we snatched what was to be the only goal of the game just before half time. Me and my mate then left for a half time drink. To be honest I didn't really pay attention to signs saying no half time readmission. The two coppers had left bored, the bar staff told us to pop in and away fans were allowed in the bars before and after the game. In any case this was non league. What happened however was a perfect example of how to blow a situation out of all proportion. NO READMITTANCE bellowed Chief Steward. These are the rules. When we went back to the bar and started watching with the home supporters a couple of stewards couldn't have cared less but Chief Steward was angry. Rules are rules as he would no doubt be saying in another life loading up the trucks to the gas chambers.

On the way back on the train we chatted to Hereford fans who were none too complimentary about their stewards while my Brazilian mate said he had forgotten about their petty mindedness. In Brazil people wouldn't dare treat people like that in case someone had a gun and blew their brains out!

Meanwhile back at a small non league ground on Bank Holiday Monday West Didsbury & Chorlton were beating Runcorn Linnets in the North West County League in front of 484 supporters. One Man City fan who'd been at the Bournemouth game commented 'A beer in the sun watching football and not being treated like a criminal. Bliss.'

Monday, September 11, 2017


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Dunstable Town on Saturday, September 9th 2017. Slough won 8-1 in front of 786 people. 
Forty years supporting Slough and games start to merge into one. I'm sure i'd been to Berkhamsted before. I remembered a wayward shot knocking a Slough supporter clean off a concrete wall, but I can't remember the score or when it was. Lucky Slough is blessed with more than a few stattos to put the record straight.
It was 1991 and the 3rd qualifying round of the FA Cup with Slough in the Conference and Berkhampsted Town in the Isthmian Division 2. A crowd of over 400 saw Slough win 4-1 and go on to play Reading in 1st round where somehow, despite being 3-1 down on 90 minutes we came back to draw 3-3 deep into injury time at a rammed Wexham Park resulting in a very late night celebrating in the old Wheatsheaf Pub! Talking of concrete walls, part of ours collapsed that day as Reading fans celebrated a goal. We lost the replay at the old Reading Elm Park ground 2-1 in front over 6,000 fans.
Turns out i'd also been to Berkhampsted for the final game of the 2002-3 Ryman League Division one season. A certain Steve Bateman was managing Berko who won 3-1 – with Michael Gilkes netting the only goal for Slough. Steve Bateman then went on to manage Slough and is now back at a reformed Berkhampsted while Michael Gilkes was last week named as Readings new first team coach. It's a small footballing world.
Since then Berkhampsted Town reached the finals of the FA Vase before eventually going bust in 2009 under a mountain of debt. Supporters quickly set up a new club winning Division Two of the Spartan South Midlands League in their first season and Division One the following one with a record 107 points – the highest in the National League system that season. Now in the Spartan Premier they are once again managed by Steve Bateman who tweeted that only a fine old competition like the FA Cup could get him a home tie against the club he managed and played for.
The club are nicknamed The Comrades, after Berkhamsted Comrades which was the name of the football club formed in the town by servicemen returning from the First World War. So Comrades v Rebels - a battle of teams by the canal (Better than Battle of the Berks). Let's just say that the canal outside Berkhampsted's ground is a bit more picturesque than the Slough arm of the Grand Union. To be fair, Slough canal is a lot cleaner nowadays compared to a time when my nan said she stopped accompanying my grandad fishing when a headless dead dog floated past! In fact I see a future when Slough supporter and entrepreneur Kieron Wall invests in the old derelict site at the canel basin building waterside flats and a pub to welcome home and away fans arriving leisurely on canal boats to the Slough Town Canal Arms!
I love an away day in the early rounds in the cup. In fact I think it should be the rule that smaller clubs always get the home advantage. A record crowd for the reformed club, their decent little ground is smack bang in the centre of town where football clubs should be with ladders by stands to collect wayward balls and the train station end where there used to be that infamous concrete wall slowly becoming a nature reserve and looking like it would swallow up Slough fans.
The old adage of taking your chances was never so apt as Berko squandered three great chances to take the lead before Slough pounced on the 15th minute to score against the run of play. A second and the result was never really in doubt from then on. But Steve Bateman has built a good team who should be challenging for another promotion this season.
As for Slough, well FA Cup games come thick and fast in the first few rounds and on Saturday we welcome old Isthmian League rivals Dulwich Hamlet and 'the Rabble' to Arbour Park which should be a corker of a game.